“There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of YHWH of armies will accomplish this.”Isaiah 9:7 (vs. 6 in some translations)
Evil Superman and World Peace
One of the most common questions I’m asked about Jesus is: “If Jesus is the messiah why isn’t there peace on earth?” This is a good question to ask, but there are some preloaded assumptions that we have to be on the same page with first.
When you hear someone say “world peace” what comes to mind? Do you think about messy family relationships in your life being totally restored? Do you imagine not just yours but family relationships all over the world being restored? Does “world peace” make you think of a time when there will be no more hatred at all? My guess is probably not. I bet when you think of “world peace,” like me, you think about an end to political violence. I bet you think about no more wars.
There’s an alternate reality Superman movie that explores world peace. –Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t like spoilers– In this brutal movie Superman who usually represents an incorruptible pillar of hope, suffers a mental breakdown after he couldn’t save his beloved Lois Lane’s life. As he’s struggling for his own sanity he copes by devoting himself to ridding the world of evil. He does what he thinks he should have done long ago, something that might have saved Lois’s life. He threatens all world leaders to immediately stop all wars. Superman, the most powerful man in the world, tries to force world peace by ending all conflict. Just like you guessed since only the symptoms of evil were dealt with, not the heart of the problem, everything imploded. Under Superman’s fragile peace, countless people got hurt. The movie is aptly titled “Injustice.”
World Peace according to the Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a story that builds hope and anticipation for an era of peace known as the messianic age. But what kind of peace does scripture describe? Is it the brand of peace from “Injustice?” A peace that forces obedience. Or is it something different? Something that permeates the human heart.
The messianic promise of peace is about so much more than political peace alone. The word the Hebrew Bible uses for “peace” is “shalom.” Shalom refers to the webbing together of all that a person is. It refers to our individual peace, relational peace, peace with nature, and peace with God.
The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in YouIsaiah 26:3
Peace in the Garden
The biblical story actually begins with that type of peace. God put Adam and Eve in a garden where their job was to take care of creation by trusting him (Genesis 2:15-17). At this point in the story, there’s calm, nothing has gone wrong yet. Then quickly, Adam and Eve stop listening to God and start calling the shots themselves. When they did this, peace was ruptured at its core and the effects quickly spread. Right away God sent them away from his presence, and the very next story is about sibling murder (Genesis 3-4). As soon as people stopped trusting God, peace was ruptured and conflict between humans was the aftermath of that ruptured peace. This teaches us that at the center of what the Hebrew Bible means by peace is trusting God. So when the trust between God and humans dissolves, human relationships dissolve next.
When humanity turned away from God, peace with nature was also interrupted. In the garden, God had provided for people in abundance, and it didn’t require life-draining work. But after humans tried to take control from God, life-draining work is exactly what happened; because of their sin, the work people had to do to sustain themselves became inherently draining. God told Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground.” (Gen. 3:19).
Adam and Eve’s rebellion also shattered the peace in their own relationship. Men and women are equal in God’s eyes. Husband and wife were supposed to be joined together as one. But now that they had brought evil into the world, God told them that even this relational peace would dwindle: “Your desire will be for your husband,” he told Eve, “and he shall rule over you” (v. 16). God had created men and women to be equal, but their relational peace toppled, and the man started to rule over his wife instead of co-ruling with her, as God intended (Gen. 1:28).
The Hebrew Bible teaches that the Messiah would restore the true peace we had in the garden. That peace begins with humanity’s relationship with God. In the garden, their individual and relational peace was a natural overflow of Adam and Eve’s good relationship with God (Isa. 26:3). To restore that kind of peace, God must start by taking care of the root of the problem and restoring people to himself. This is exactly the messianic mission the Hebrew Bible describes.
This is the same way the Prophet Isaiah talked about the messiah’s peace. He talks about King David’s descendant [literally root of Jesse – universally accepted to be the Messiah], and he describes him bringing a peace that is so much deeper than just political peace. Isaiah talks about violence being purged from nature itself.
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fattened steer will be together;
And a little boy will lead them.
The Root of the Problem
How can these things happen? How can violence be purged from nature itself? Peace like this can’t be demanded, it can only be authentic if it comes from within. And this peace can only spread to the world if everyone participates. But, the God of the Hebrew Bible doesn’t force us to trust him, throughout the entire story he gives people the opportunity to trust him or reject him. Before dealing with the external symptoms of the ruptured peace, God decided to deal with the root of the problem. And the Hebrew Bible clearly teaches that the root of the problem is the human heart. God said “…the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21).
This is where Jesus comes in. He came to deal with our hearts first. When we realize that trusting God is the core of true peace we can see that if we don’t trust God we’re contributing to the problem. When we don’t have a trusting relationship with our creator, our other relationships will suffer.
Why does a good God allow evil?
Right now, God is still allowing people who reject him to live in his creation. For those who have accepted him, he has begun the work of transforming them from within, restoring their perfect peace whatever their circumstances are. There will be a day when God fully establishes peace and totally removes evil from the world. But in his mercy for the people who haven’t yet accepted him, this day of judgment drags on into the future so that people have a longer opportunity to accept his rescue. But he won’t let his creation be plagued with evil forever. One day he is going to separate those who refuse his peace from those who’ve accepted it (Mal. 4:1–3; Ps. 1:4–6; Heb. 10:37).
Jesus the Prince of Peace
Followers of Jesus the Messiah continue to live in a world that still has conflict and evil. But the peace Jesus offers starts with our relationship with him, and it overflows into our lives. So even though we live in a world full of trouble, we have peace.
Jesus has brought peace. But if he came first to establish political peace before dealing with the root of the problem, the human heart, getting evil out of the world would mean wiping out humanity. It would be tragically similar to Injustice’s Superman. So Jesus came to deal with our hearts first, and as we trust in him he leads us to deep personal peace. And there will be a day in the future when Jesus returns and rids the world of evil. This is great hope for those who have trusted in him and received his peace, it’s bad news for those who reject his leadership in their lives.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” ( John 16:33). Right now if you follow Jesus you have peace in him, even as we live in a tumultuous world. But soon Jesus will return and reign, and on that day his kingdom will be one of complete and lasting peace (Isa. 9:7).